JSBTC Day Message 2012

Waking up in the morning, there is a crispness in the air signalling the onset of Autumn. It is also a signal that the JSBTC Day will soon be commemorated in temples across Canada. May I begin my message by thanking you for your continued support and dedication towards your local temple as well as to the National organization.

For this year’s JSBTC message, I would like to talk a little about the three Dharma Seals of Buddhism. Like the seal on an envelope identifying the author of the letter inside, the three Dharma Seals are principles which make the teachings unique to Buddhism. The first seal is impermanence, all phenomenal things are constantly changing; nothing remains permanently. The second seal is the concept of non-self or put in a positive way, interdependence. All phenomenal things are a result of causes and conditions, there is nothing which exists independently of all other things. The final seal is Nirvana, the state of peace and calm when the first two seals are truly realized.

In examining the first of the three seals, at first glance, it may seem like a very harsh message. All things are impermanent, everything is constantly changing. If we put this into the context of our JSBTC organization, we can see the changes in the declining numbers in our membership over the past number of years. Do we suffer because of the actual decline in the membership, or is it because we cling to the notion of maintaining status quo? If we are able to let go of our attachments, acceptance of change can be the first step to renewal. Examples of this can be seen within our own organization.

Over this past year there has been a renewed optimism as we saw many new faces at the national AGM in Winnipeg, individuals who were representing their temple for the first time on a national stage. Another positive change has been in the four individuals who have successfully completed their training and received their Tokudo ordination during this year. Of the four individuals, three are not of Japanese heritage, yet all are just as dedicated to the Jodo Shinshu teachings. Most recently, at the recent British Columbia Jodo Shinshu Federation Convention, close to one-third of the participants (24 out of 83) were of non-Japanese heritage. These are just a few of the positive changes seen in our organization over the past year. By not dwelling on the declining membership of the past and refocusing on the potential for the future we can create a positive outlook.

The second seal, the concept of non-self, states that there is no such thing as an independent and permanent self, that all things are interdependent on one another. A negative expression may be non-self, but the same meaning put in a positive phrasing is that we are all one. There is no self apart from the other, we are one and the same. If we again put this seal into the context of our JSBTC organization, we can see that the JSBTC does not exist without each of our contributions. Each of us is the JSBTC. Any changes which may promote growth and harmony will only come about when we work together collectively as one, realizing that each individual is important to the whole organization.

When we come to the understanding of the above principles, we may not achieve Nirvana, but we can see our future with clear insight. Knowing what needs to be done, but more importantly, getting it done.
Keeping this in mind, may I ask you to continue supporting both your local temple as well as our National organization. The future is definitely looking up as we move forward.

Gassho,
Grant Ikuta, Bishop
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada